The Big Mistake Swimmers Make with Motivation

The Big Mistake Swimmers Make with Motivation

Motivation or some variation of it is by far the most common query I get from readers of my weekly newsletter.

  • “How do I get motivated to work hard?”
  • “How do I get motivated to do the things necessary for my goals?”
  • “Why is it so hard to get motivated to go to practice?”
  • “Why am I motivated some days and not on others?”

And so on.

Swimmers often use a “top down” approach when it comes to motivation.

They plan, think, and feel their way being motivated, and by extension, doing the things necessary to power improvement.

Which leaves them hostage to feelings and perceptions, which can be… unreliable, let’s say.

  • “I’ll start working hard when the circumstances are better.”
  • “I’ll commit to my goals when I feel like it.”
  • “I’m not feeling motivated today, so I’m not going to the pool.”
  • “My stroke feels off, so I’m not going to give the main set a solid effort.”

This form of procrastination… of waiting around for the blinding surge of motivation to do hard things never arrives.

Which has the double-up effect of making us feel even worse: I don’t deserve success in the pool because I am not super motivated to work hard or do the right things.

It’s not because you aren’t motivated or even that you aren’t deserving of success in the pool…

It’s because you are approaching “getting motivated” from the wrong direction.

A more reliable way to do the hard things in the pool is showing up and taking action.

Movement creates motivation

The dirty little secret about motivation is that it’s very hard to generate when we are sitting still.

The easier way to generate consistent motivation is by starting with action.

The motivation will follow.

Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist from Stanford who you’ve likely seen on social media or YouTube, puts it more succinctly:

“Behavior first. Thoughts, feelings, and perceptions follow.”

How does this look for you in the pool?

  • If you are feeling slow and sluggish today, commit to showing up to the pool and doing the warm-up to the best of your ability.
  • If you are sitting around feeling unmotivated, get up and move around.

It really is this simple.

I’ve lost count of how many times I went to the pool feeling under-motivated or mentally not there, but committed to starting the main set, and ended up banging out a great workout.

Feelings are important.

But sitting around thinking and perceiving them endlessly does nothing when it comes to achieving big things in the water.

So instead of:

  • Motivation > Take action

Reframe the process as:

  • Take action > Motivation

Today, if you are feeling a little under-the-weather with your motivation, remember that the way through is with action.

Mental Training for Swimmers (FINALLY) Made Simple

Whether you are tired of choking on race day, want to finally conquer your mindset so that you can give your PB’s the beating they deserve, or want to develop a killer game plan for your mindset, Conquer the Pool is your ticket to faster swimming.

“This is the best book I’ve ever seen concerning mental training.” — Ray Benecki, Head Coach, the FISH Swim Team

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Olivier Poirier-Leroy Olivier Poirier-Leroy is the founder of He is an author, former national level swimmer, two-time Olympic Trials qualifier, and swim coach.

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